Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Jon Natchez

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Years active

Barsuk Records

Jon Natchez

Jon Natchez
Newton, Massachusetts, United States

Indie rock, experimental

Musician, composer, producer, writer

Saxophone, trumpet, flugelhorn, bass, lap steel, banjo, tuba, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, trombone, clarinet, French horn, modular synthesizers

Associated acts
The War on Drugs, Beirut, Yellow Ostrich, Stars Like Fleas, A Million Billion, The Silent League, etc.

Lisa crawley performing brother with jon natchez at pianos nyc

Jon Natchez is an American multi-instrumentalist and composer based in New York City. He has a prolific career as a sideman and recording artist on albums and soundtracks, composing and arranging as well as playing diverse instruments including saxophone, trumpet, flugelhorn, bass, lap steel, banjo, tuba, guitar, mandolin, keyboards, trombone, clarinet, French horn, and modular synthesizers. He started his career as a member of groups such as Stars Like Fleas, The Silent League and most notably Beirut, which he was a member of for three years. After two years with the trio Yellow Ostrich, he joined the group The War on Drugs, who he continues to tour and record with.


He has also performed and/or recorded with artists such as David Byrne, St. Vincent, Passion Pit, Escort, Spoon, Taylor Mac, Shugo Tokumaru, Nina Persson, Mumford & Sons, Congo Ashanti Roy, and Liza Minnelli among others. In 2011 NPR referred to him as "indie rock's most valuable sideman," and the Wall Street Journal called him an "all-star sideman" in 2015. On June 10, 2015, Natchez released his first solo material in the form of two EPs: the four track Swaths I EP, and the four track Swaths II EP. Natchez wrote all the material, performed all instruments, and recorded, produced, engineered, and mixed the EPs. He has also composed a number of film soundtracks.

Early life and education

Jon Natchez was born in Massachusetts, and he grew up and went to school n the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts. By high school he was playing saxophone. He played in a number of student groups for fun, and toured in the United States and the Boston area. After high school he attended Harvard University, where he studied music and creative writing.

Move to New York City (2000s-2005)

A week after graduating, the 23-year-old Natchez moved to New York City to pursue a career in journalism. Initially he worked a variety of part-time jobs and did some freelance writing, as well as occasionally playing music gigs. At this time he continued to listen to genres such as soul and R&B, and described himself as "a jazz snob." After a year or two of working in New York, Natchez found his interest in music performance rekindled. In 2003 he saw a show by the six-member band The Silent League, and later stated that he was inspired by their "emotionally rich music full of unique textures." He approached the band and was accepted as a member, and for two years he actively toured with the group, releasing an album and traveling through England several times. Natchez described the experience as "a great chance to experiment in making music I felt connected to, and it was there I learned a lot of new instruments."

Beirut and early collaborations (2006-2010)

In 2006 he joined the lineup of A Million Billion, taking part in the recording of a new single. He also worked on an album by Herman Dune, playing horns as The Jon Natchez Bourbon Horns with Kelly Pratt. He was a member of the band Stars Like Fleas by 2007, contributing to their September album The Ken Burns Effect, and also that year he recorded the debut album The Jealous Girlfriends as a member of the group of the same name. Around this time Zach Condon, front-man and founder of the indie folk-rock band Beirut, moved to New York to work on the band's next release. Condon's manager approached Natchez about playing horns, and Natchez contributed various instrumentals to the May 2006 album Gulag Orkestar by Beirut. The following year he helped record both the band's EP Lon Gisland and the full-length album The Flying Club Cup. Natchez subsequently spent three years on tour with Beirut, with approximately 180 Beirut gigs each year until 2009. During this time he also toured with the band Bishop Allen and the French band Herman Dune, and overall was on the road for around 200 days a year.

In 2010 he took a hiatus from touring, and that year was "on the road" for little more than a week total. Explains Natchez, "after I stopped touring with Beirut, I didn't want to just jump on tour with a band I didn't feel a connection with, so I stayed around New York." He worked as a sideman on various local recording projects and gigs, for example recording an album as a member of The Silent League in 2010. By early 2011 he had performed with bands such as Bishop Allen, Camera Obscura, and been a part of The Antlers. Later in the year he contributed some instrumentals to the Beirut album The Rip Tide, and also recorded instrumental tracks for artists such as Alexi Murdoch, Jon DeRosa, and Rebecca Pronsky.

Yellow Ostrich (2011-2013)

After several years in New York, Natchez "[found himself] wanting to be on tour again. And then just randomly, within me weeks of me having that realization, I get a call from my friend Michael Tapper, the drummer in Yellow Ostrich." An American indie rock band based in Brooklyn, Yellow Ostrich had formed in 2009 with only Alex Schaaf (vocals and guitar) and Tapper. After recording their first studio album, the duo enlisted Natchez to help achieve their sound on stage, with Natchez taking on the roles of bass, horns, lapsteel, keyboard, and electronics. He became a permanent member of Yellow Ostrich in January 2011. Prior to Yellow Ostrich he had always been in larger band of 5 to 10 people, but he described working as part of a trio as "really fulfilling," stating that with the band he could try "whatever [he wanted]" with different instruments. He was touring with the band within three weeks of joining them in practice. While on tour in June 2011, the band signed to Barsuk Records, who released the band's sophomore LP Strange Land. With Beau Sorenson producing, Natchez played eleven different types of horns on the album. Around that time NPR referred to Natchez as "indie rock's most valuable sideman." The band did several tours of the United States between 2011 and 2012, including opening for The Antlers and Ra Ra Riot. On June 10, 2013, the Yellow Ostrich announced that Natchez was leaving the band to pursue other things.

The War on Drugs and solo EPs (2014-2015)

By 201, Natchez had joined the Philadelphia indie rock group The War on Drugs. First formed in 2005 in Philadelphia, and band had released their debut shortly afterwards and gone through a number of lineup changes. Natchez took part in recording their 2014 album Lost in the Dream on Secretly Canadian, and he toured with band in 2014 and 2015, performing on number of television shows such as Later...with Jools Holland, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. He continued to play saxophone with The War on Drugs as of March 2015, and that April they performed at Coachella. In June 2015 he helped Mumford and Sons and My Morning Jacket to cover the song "With a Little Help From My Friends" at Bonnaroo.

In 2015 he helped compose the soundtracks for a full-length documentary titled Alcatraz: Search for the Truth and a short film titled The Surf Report. The Wall Street Journal called him an "all-star sideman" that year, and beyond his work with The War on Drugs he continued to work as a guest musician. He came in last minute to perform all the brass and woodwind parts of Anchored by Jon Derosa, anAmong other projects, he recently contributed reed instruments and trombone to the June 2015 Guster album Evermotion, He contributed reed instruments and trombone to the June 2015 album Evermotion, by Guster, and he also took part in the recording of LA-BAS, an eponymous debut by a new indie rock supergroup that also included the members Eric D. Johnson, among others.

On June 10, 2015, Natchez released his first solo material in the form of two EPs: the four track Swaths I EP, and the four track Swaths II EP. With mastering by Eugene Cho, Natchez wrote all the material, performed all instruments, and recorded, produced, engineered, and mixed the EPs Natchez wrote in the liner notes that the track numbers were for reference only, and for "maximum enjoyment" the songs were meant to be heard in a randomly generated sequence. A writer, he has had tour diaries and other articles on music published in media outlets such as Foreign Policy and The Harvard Crimson. As of June 2015 he was writing a public tour diary for The War on Drugs, following their shows at Water Street Music Hall in Rochester and other venues. The New York Times referred to him as a "valued sideman" in 2015.

Style and influences

Natchez plays a diverse array of instruments, including electric bass, synthesizers, a multitude of horns, and clarinet. According to Natchez, "I've always described myself as a 'frosting' guy. I play mainly woodwinds... and I've learned to get around on most brass instruments... none of the things that bake the cake, just the ones that ice it." For most of his career he has contributed to projects as either a bandmember or a sideman, and he only released his first solo material in 2015. He has stated that he finds something "noble and romantic" about being a sideman, explaining "I romanticize the players of the 50s and 60s... I loved the idea of bringing my own personal touch to something that isn’t mine."


Jon Natchez Wikipedia

Similar Topics